Ethiopia needs a new rallying point instead of recycling its painful past

Ethiopia
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s notion of “medemer” could have united Ethiopians, but seems to have failed. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

Ethiopia has survived several dark epochs in its long history. One of them is known as Zemene Mesafint – the era of princes. This period, between the mid-18th and mid-19th century, got its name from the Bible because it mimics the biblical “period of judges” in Israel’s history.

Joshua, who guided Israel in the last and critical part of their journey of liberation and helped them to settle in the promised land, had just passed away. Upon his death, the central point in Jewish life started to dissipate. The nation splintered into 12 tribes; a vicious cycle of violence and lawlessness followed.

In the same way, Zemene Mesafint was a treacherous time in Ethiopia. Its union was seriously threatened by power-hungry regional warlords. The nation’s political and institutional architecture was tested as the real power deserted the central government and lay instead with regional leaders. Continue reading…

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